Dear Mr. Katz,
I hope this letter finds you well and I write with all due respect.
It’s been almost seven seasons since you took over as the owner of our beloved Edmonton Oilers franchise when you purchased the team from the out of touch and lacklustre Edmonton Investors Group — but so far the team has failed to live up to expectations. Since your purchase was finalized on July 2nd 2008 the team has compiled a 177-252-28-33 record or more simply a 0.435 W%.
During the process of a “rebuild” that has gone awry in more ways than one we have seen; twelve goaltenders, seven coaching chances, three general managers and an endless list of poor decisions during key moments in our franchises history.
Accountability has been a word thrown around quite often by the fans, media, players and management but ultimately the one person who is most accountable for the organizations downfall is you Mr. Katz.
This isn’t a finger of ultimate blame but trying to get you to see what we the fans are seeing on the outside of your inner circle. It has been under your watch that this team has been mismanaged and all accountability has been lost. There have been more trade requests, overpaid and uneducated free agent spendings, an underwhelming collection of poor draft selections and a total unwillingness to accept responsibility and blame from all members of the organization in key roles.
At the end of the day the final decision on where and how this franchise goes forward lies with you. To put it this way if Rexall Pharmacy was bleeding on the bottom financial line, customers leaving for other pharmacy chains or better yet an employee who was stealing from the company there would be chances would there not? Well the Edmonton Oilers business model is starting to see customers turning away upset with the current product ending with a decreased demand for ticket sales. They are also now fans opting to take what should be considered their valued available income elsewhere (contrary to Kevin Lowe’s belief that the fans inside the arena are the only one’s that matter). On top of that the current management team is stealing from you with their ill advised decisions which have robbed you of (pardon the pun) “striking oil” with playoff revenue.
Your goal since coming to Edmonton was to help the organization return to it’s winning ways of the 1980’s and also to rejuvenate the downtown core of the city with the arena project.
As fans we can not thank you enough for fighting tooth and nail to make the new Rogers Place arena a reality. Rexall Place has endured it’s fair share of renovations but the building much like the ideology of the current management team is out of date.
Going back to the comparison between the Oilers and Rexall Pharmacy, if Rexall pharmacy was being mismanaged would you not clean house and hire a new management team to take over? If you were struggling as a business would you not bring in a senior advisor to help right the business plan? What if the guy in the mail room was sleeping on the job? What would you do?
Well here are some things to think about.
Poor drafting has put this team in such dire straits…
First and foremost the guy in charge of scouting and drafting has given you only five players that have played 100 NHL games since he took over in October 2007. In total that’s 5 of 55 — far from the reasonable realm of success. Even if we take off the 2014, 2013 and 2012 classes that are either still playing junior or playing their first year in the AHL, that’s 4 of 32 or a 12.5% success rate — one of the lowest in the league.
Stu MacGregor is this guy and whether the fault is his or the rest of the scouting team something needs to change in reflection of the team’s poor draft record over the rebuild.
Here are a few examples of the Oilers making ill advised decisions at the draft.
In 2007 management handcuffed the scouting staff with an abysmal offer-sheet on Dustin Penner where they lost their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round selections in the 2008 NHL Draft. Tyler Myers, Justin Schultz and Kirill Petrov would be taken with those respective picks. MacGregor hit it out of the park with a late-first round gem in Jordan Eberle, but blew a golden opportunity to take TJ Brodie in the fourth round taking Johan motin instead.
In 2009 management and the scouting staff were convinced Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubynk were the future of the teams goaltending and opting to take Anton Lander instead of Robin Lehner. This wasn’t the only mistake as the Oilers also passed on Marcus Foligno, Sami Vatanen taking Kyle Bigos and Toni Rajala instead. In 2010 the scouts missed on all the picks outside of Taylor Hall in the first with the rest of the crop playing a combined 22 games (Tyler Pitlick, Brandon Davidson).
With a diminished prospect pool on the backend in 2011 your scouts picked David Musil over Tomas Jurco, Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad.
— David Staples (@dstaples) December 5, 2014
Could you imagine an eventual defense group consisting of Myers, Brodie, Vatanen, Schultz, Martin Marincin, Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom? What about having a Foligno to help out in the bottom-six? Or a capable big starting goalie in Lehner? The list goes on and we can continue to debate the selections but at the end of the day rebuilds are completed within the rounds outside of the first.
Management talked for years how they were going to follow the blueprints of building a contender through the draft much like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks before them. What the organization overlooked were that the Penguins and Blackhawks were finding pieces in the later rounds that made them the contenders they are.
These rounds are where the additional pieces to round out the core are found. Were the scouting staff able to hit on these selections the team might actually be competing for a playoff spot. At the end of the day the people in charge of running this organization on a day-to-day basis need to be changed for a multitude of reasons aside from the fact a change would signal to the fans that you truly care about building a contender with putting the right hockey people in the right positions and not just the heroes of the 1980’s New Kids On The Block dynasty. It was almost 30 years ago, this is not the same league and most of their visions are passe.
It’s time to make changes you are not comfortable with…
The organization has taken a former well-respected player in Kevin Lowe and tarnished his legacy by keeping him involved in high profile positions he has struggled to gain any success outside of the 2006 miracle run to the Stanley Cup final. At best under Lowe’s direction the team has been a playoff bubble team and now with the rebuild failing to get off the ground-floor fans have turned on Lowe and been asking for his dismissal. Lowe, 55, should be remembered for being a successful Oilers legend on the ice and not continuing as an unsuccessful Oiler off the ice. There is the story about how the team almost landed Corey Perry for Mike Comrie in 2003 but most importantly in his 16 years as a member of the Oilers, no matter what his role (coach, general manager, president) the team has made the playoffs only four times. Simply unacceptable.
Another Oilers loss, and you know what that means: Kevin Lowe is somehow going to be given even more responsibilities now.
— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) December 17, 2014
There are some things happening under your watch that I dare say would never happen in any other NHL franchise. For example a coach being fired by a general manager only to later be re-hired as a senior advisor, then hired to take the job of the guy that fired him and then fire the coach he brought in only to then coach and be the general manager of the team.
Scott Howson is another name that left Edmonton as a assistant general manager to become the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Howson was eventually fired by the Jackets for his failure to turn things around only to return and get a promotion within the organization.
Ineptitude at it’s finest.
Daryl these are the kind of mistakes that cost a franchise dearly. We can forget about the fact there are now rumours about the team trading away arguably the best left wing player in the league to right these wrongs. We can forget about the fact that the coaches that have come in here namely Dallas Eakins who hammered the same message to the fans that Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger did before him. We can forget that the team is compiling lottery picks at what has to be an NHL record. Management however fails to give anyone in the form of players, coaches, fans and even yourself any shot at building a contender simply because they just don’t know how.
Throughout the league the Oilers organization is looked upon as simpletons made up of the Old Boys Club and it’s time to fix this reputation and bring pride back to a city that deserves to have a winner like no other.
This means the organization needs to build an identity separate from the 1980’s dynasty, we have to say good bye to some people.
If the changes don’t happen now, what will you do when the doors open to a brand new Rogers Place in October 2016 and no one shows up?
Thank you for reading this letter,
– A diehard Oilers fan
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.